The roster grew thicker just in time for the spring signing period to begin.
Rawane “Pops” Ndiaye (pronounced Rah-wan-e N-jie), a 6-foot-10, 250-pound center from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, officially committed to coach Cuonzo Martin and Tennessee men’s basketball on Tuesday afternoon, the News Sentinel learned. The verbal commitment made the big-bodied junior college product the fifth recruit for the Vols’ 2013 class.
The problem: Martin only has three open scholarships.
“As far as I know, there is one,” Indian Hills coach Barret Peery told the News Sentinel, referencing a scholarship being available for Ndiaye.
Having missed three months of the past season with a foot injury, Ndiaye averaged 2.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 13 games at Indian Hills. According to Peery, UT and other programs grew interested in the Senegal native during the past “six to eight weeks.”
Ndiaye selected the Vols over interest from LSU, Auburn and Texas Christian.
“Teams really started coming after him,” Peery said. “It’s hard to find an available big body this time of year.”
The coach described Ndiaye as a physical rebounder and defender who can run the floor and score around the basket with his right hand.
UT assistant Tracy Webster identified Ndiaye and recruited him along with Martin. Ndiaye took an official visit to Knoxville last weekend.
Ndiaye originally committed to Western Carolina out of Body of Christ (N.C.) Academy in 2011 before heading to prep school in North Carolina. He lived in New York City upon arriving in the U.S. from Senegal, “five or six years ago,” according to Peery.
Now two scholarships over the mandated NCAA limit of 13, the Vols are still waiting to hear whether All-SEC forward Jarnell Stokes will return or forego his junior season to enter the NBA draft.
Ndiaye plans to send a signed National Letter of Intent to UT later this week.
Blackman High School point guard Darius Thompson, who committed to UT on March 23, is expected to file his Letter of Intent on Wednesday. The 6-4 Murfreesboro native averaged 16.4 points, 6.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals last season, leading Blackman to a 30-1 record.
The Vols received NLIs from Dyer County guard Robert Hubbs III, Buford (Ga.) High combo forward A.J. Davis, and Huntington (W.Va.) Prep point guard Travon Landry in the early signing period.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.